Bill Bradley, who has said voters are ready for more civility in politics, admitted today that Vice President Gore's ads had been effective in persuading voters that a Bradley presidency could endanger Medicare.
"I think that most voters don't understand," Bradley said at a news conference. "There were two negative ads run and I think that to a certain extent, voters might've been swayed by that. But we're countering that now, and I think that we're making up our distance very quickly."
However, Bradley said he would not employ the same tactic. "I put no negative ads on television, and I don't intend to," he said.
Also today, Bradley, a former senator from New Jersey, was endorsed by Betty Friedan, a founder of the National Organization for Women. "As a leader of the feminist movement, I frequently sought Senator Bradley's wise counsel on how to move our legislative agenda forward," Friedan said in a statement. "His door was always open to us."
Scrambling to counter polls suggesting he has made little progress among potential voters in Monday's Iowa caucuses, Bradley released a fact sheet showing that 1,000 precinct leaders have been recruited, more than 150,000 voters have been contacted by telephone, and 200 postcards a day are coming in from Iowans who want to help him organize.
Repeating his mantra about his prospects here, Bradley said, "We knew all along that Iowa is a state that rewards entrenched power, and that's what we're dealing with." Bradley said Gore "has the support of the president of the United States, who's loyal to him because he was loyal to the president."
But Bradley said he believes his campaign has reached a number of Iowans who will attend caucuses for the first time.
"I'm upbeat about this, quite frankly," Bradley said. "We used to think it was a great success if we had 10 or 11 people in a room. Now, you know, we're getting much more than that."
And Bradley sought to downplay the notion that his Iowa showing would affect his finish in the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 1. "I don't think you can count on those mysterious connections," he said.
To help recruit caucus-goers, Bradley began running television ads starring Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and Bill Russell, the former Boston Celtics star. Kerrey says, "All politicians aren't the same. Bill Bradley is different. If you agree it's time for trust, conviction and leadership in Washington, come to caucus on January 24th for Bill Bradley."
Russell says, "Now I know a lot of you want to see Bill in the White House, just like I do, but I also know a lot of you aren't planning to vote. Well, it's not going to happen without you. It's as simple as that. So on January 24th, get yourself off the couch and come out to the caucus." With a chuckle, he adds, "I'll be watching for you."